I’m not kidding. I want to be the chick on stage with a mic in my hand belting out songs you know and want to sing with me. Sparkly clothes, tight pants and a rock star attitude that outshines everyone in the room.
It’s kind of awesome, right?
Unfortunately, Ricki’s job isn’t her dream. Playing in smoky bars for drunks who might not remember your name isn’t where she planned to end up. But it’s where she is, and what she must learn to accept.
Welcome to “Ricki and The Flash.”
Ricki (my woman crush, the amazing and awesome Meryl Streep) left her family years ago and headed to L.A. with stars in her eyes and a song in her heart. She had dreams of making it big, and it wasn’t going to happen with a husband and three small children in tow.
Unfortunately, fame and rock stardom didn’t come easily — or at all — for Ricki and her band, The Flash. A failed album later, Ricki had lost her family and her chance at becoming a rock star goddess.
Ricki’s now-ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), remarried and found a de facto mom for his kids. While Ricki struggled to find fame, Pete and his kids built a life with Maureen (Audra McDonald). Ricki didn’t watch her kids grow up. She didn’t raise them, and she certainly didn’t help them grow into the adults they were destined to become.
And then one day, Ricki receives an S.O.S. urging her to come home when her only daughter, Julie (Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) has come home, her life in shambles after her husband leaves her for someone else. Ricki wasn’t at that wedding, by the way.
Ricki answers the call, which leads us to a whole new world of drama that is possibly only saved by the inclusion of Streep.
One son, played by Sebastian Stan, tries to hide his engagement from Ricki so she won’t come to the wedding. Another son, played by Nick Westrate, is gay and can barely contain his loathing of his mother.
Ricki brushes away the insults. She deflects and comes up with excuse after excuse for her actions and the way they have impacted others. She doesn’t see exactly how messed up her life is.
Ricki is opinionated, obnoxious, and her family isn’t the only folks with whom she has commitment phobia. The Flash’s bass player (Rick Springfield) does double duty as her boyfriend, although heaven help you if you call him that.
The brainchild of Diablo Cody (Academy Award winner for writing 2007’s “Juno), “Ricki and The Flash” should be amazing. You’ve got a seriously talented cast, led by the amazing Meryl and backed by folks like Kline, Springfield and McDonald.
And yet, there’s something missing. Don’t get me wrong. I really liked the film. I will support Meryl in whatever she does, but there’s just something too uncomfortable about “Ricki and The Flash.”
Ricki’s family life is in shambles. Her boyfriend could probably have walked away and been better off. She’s broke. Her dreams fell flat.
Watching her on stage at the bar is both sad and empowering. She’s doing whatever she wants, but between the Obama jokes and the Lady Gaga song, included in the set to stay modern, it’s a little heartbreaking to watch someone so full of life reduced to such a life.
Ricki’s interaction with her family is even more painful to watch. She gave her kids life, but those lives are a complete mystery to her. She doesn’t know how to connect to these people, and she chokes down the bitterness of the life she thinks she deserved.
The story itself isn’t anything special here. Honestly, the awkwardness practically knocks you over like a wrecking ball. The drama just keeps building, and its third act has a predictable finish.
But Meryl and Co. give it their all. I heard that the performances we see of Ricki and her band are live-action performances. Meryl, Rick and the rest are up there really singing their hearts out.
There’s a little bit of Ricki in all of us. I’m sitting at my desk writing this, and I can tell you it’s not where I planned to end up. We all have dreams. Some are big, while others are small. Ricki lost it all when she went off to pursue her dreams, but ultimately she ended up right where she needed to be.
“Ricki and The Flash” isn’t an Oscar contender. It’s not a film to write home about, but its honesty — albeit something hard to watch — is admirable. And, Meryl, as always is able to convey that honesty in an effective, meaningful way.